Two of the four leaders debates are now complete, and Paul Martin is starting to look like a political Dave Dickenson. The Prime Minister was continually sacked by Harper, Duceppe, and Layton, yet somehow managed to get up for the next play. Martin was able to make a few good reads, scramble and improvise, at one point going as far as stealing the "Stand Up for Canada" line from the Conservative playbook in reference to Canada-U.S. relations. Unfortunately for Martin, just because one can handle being knocked around doesn't mean the team can necessarily deliver when it counts.
Stephen Harper didn't alter course much from Thursday night's French-language debate, which, unfortunately for him, saw the other party leaders smoke out the Conservative position on same-sex marriage. The Notwithstanding Clause remains as the Elephant in the room, while Martin, Layton and Duceppe are stuffing Harper's pants with peanuts. Harper's other collision with logic took place during the question on child care. "Beer and popcorn" may have been somewhat callous, but handing out money to parents for childcare when those childcare spaces don't exist shows a disturbing callousness right under the CPC leader's hairpiece.
Jack Layton needs to figure out if he's going to be overaggressive or just over-excited. A number of times during the debate he tried to confront Martin as his time ran out, but at the same time, he's the only leader of party running a full slate of candidates who never talks about forming a government. If Layton's not willing to think big, why should anyone consider getting in on the NDP's big ideas? The NDP also missed an opportunity to position itself in the national unity debate because economic class divides Canada more than language or culture. When Stephen Harper mentioned that no one but him recognizes Jean Charest as player , Layton could have recognized Jean Charest's right-wing economic program of tax cuts and privatization as the major reason the PQ is blinking disturbingly on the radar again.
Gilles Duceppe again proved why he should continue to participate in all of the federal leaders debates. His concept of sovereignty is easy to grasp "Not superior, not inferior, just different." However, Duceppe doesn't seem to believe that the question put before Quebeckers in a referendum should be just as simple. This time around, the BQ leader was looking to attract anglophone and allophone Quebeckers and appears to have gathered a few more to reinforce the Bloc's hammerlock on Quebec polls.
If there's one thing that struck me as odd during this debate, it was the number of Freaky Friday moments among the opposition party leaders. Stephen Harper made a number of references to 'working families' (a traditional NDP catchphrase) and also inadvertently helped Layton to expose the intolerant flank of the Liberals on same-sex marriage. In return, Layton spanked Belinda Stronach on Harper's behalf over jumping to a Liberal cabinet position. Layton also did some heavy lifting for Duceppe in citing Liberal corruption as the major driver for the upswing in sovereigntist fortunes. The next debates will follow pretty much the same format that insulates the leaders from each other, but it's at least a giggle to see which leaders switch bodies next time...
Finally, for those of you scoring at home on the 'Merry Christmas' vs. 'Happy Holidays' thing:
-Layton wished us a Happy Christmas
-Martin wished us a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays
-Duceppe wished us a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays
-Harper wished us a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
For everybody who visits The Bear 604 Show, this page wishes you a heartfelt All of The Above.